Compelling Environments: The 2012 Solomon Awards

Celebrating Innovation, Quality, and Service to Churches

The WFX Solomon Awards, presented by Worship Facilities Magazine, Worship Facilities Designer Magazine, and Church Production Magazine is the leading annual national award recognizing church building design across the full spectrum of church sizes and styles.

It’s been my privilege to serve on the WFX Advisory Council for the last five years, and part of my responsibility is participating in the judging of the Solomon Awards. I eagerly anticipate receiving the judging package each summer, because I know I will be looking at some of the best design and construction projects that are helping advance the message of Christ. Here is a brief summary of the winning projects:

Best Building ContractorVisioneering Studios, for Centerpoint Church in Murrieta, CA. Centerpoint Church recently moved to a green field site in the town of Murrieta. Realizing that they had outgrown the capacity of the modest building originally built, it was time to start the second phase with a larger auditorium and let the children grow in the original building.

Best Church Architect, 1-800 seats – CDH Partners, for St. Elmo UMC in Chattanooga, TN. St. Elmo UMC, located in a historic district, suffered a fire loss in 2009. Three exterior walls from the 1920s structure were preserved. An addition and rebuilding of the interior provided congregants with the best of both worlds: a new building within the historic walls of the original church.

Best Architect, 800+ seats – HH Architects, for the Family Life Center at Trietsch Memorial UMC in Flower Mound, TX. After experiencing the massive influx of refugees from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and again from Hurricane Ike in 2008, Trietsch UMC commissioned not only an exciting space for their Youth program and for community Outreach, but also a certified Red Cross Shelter for future emergency needs.

Best Church Design: ExpansionHH Architects, for First Baptist Church Allen, TX Lobby and Children’s Building. HH Architects helped FBC Allen implement their vision of the 21st Century of unifying their existing campus of buildings reflecting their sixty year heritage  with the addition of a stunning new rotunda connector, and a Children’s Building designed for sustainability.

Best Church Design: New ProjectBLDD Architects, for the Betty and Kenneth Hawkins Centennial Chapel at Olivet Nazarene University. The Centennial Chapel provides a place for worship and outreach for one of the nation’s premier Christian universities. This 75,000 square-foot facility, with its 3,080 seat auditorium and large lobby/gathering space, accommodates a wide range of programs from music to lecture.

Best Church Design: RenovationLIVE Design Group, for Four One Five City Centre (Agape Church) in Laurel, MS. More than just a renovation project, the work of LIVE Design Group with Agape Church on their Four One Five City Centre project transformed an abandoned building into a thriving community center and growing church, while stimulating an exciting urban revitalization that has energized the entire town of Laurel.

Congregations to these congregations and the professional firms that helped them advance their mission through the built environment.



Compelling Environments: Next Generation Youth Spaces

Most church youth spaces have come a long way from the metal folding chairs in a basement that were once the norm. And while climbing walls and video game stations may be what comes to mind in cutting-edge ministry, here are some views from designers who are working with youth spaces across the country.

Worship Facilities Magazine (founder of WFX) writer Cathy Hutchison asked these questions:

What are in the future for youth ministry facilities that will have real traction and influence?

The trend is toward spaces that foster authenticity, both environmental and relational. They don’t want “fluff” in a lot of artificial theming, but rather timeless design that integrates – not alienates – them into the church. There is design sensitivity to lasting emotion (relationships) over temporary emotion (environments). We try to design spaces that foster lasting relationships. Sandy Gibbs, Church Development & Design, LS3P, Greenville SC

We see a difference based on where ministries are located geographically. We have pursued edgier area design like shared community spaces, but we still have requests to do things we’ve been doing for the past 18 years. A lot is about spending time with the youth pastors who know the culture and the kids. For some, the solution will be high-tech such as two-sided, large –screen video displays with games in high-definition. But we are finding the trend is toward communal…the living room or coffee-house feel. Richard Carver, founder and CEO of Little Mountain Productions in Tulsa, OK.

What new strategies have you seen in architecture for youth facilities that really work?

We are seeing churches do amazing things in sharing their resources for the community. The spaces are designed to meet community needs without imposing the “churchy feel.” Our main question to youth ministers is “Do you need 100% of the space 100% of the time?” Most often, the answer is “no,” allowing you to put more into less space,, resulting in greater allocation of resources. Ravi Waldon, Principle, Waldon Studio Architects, Columbia, MD.

What do you wish youth pastors knew about facilities?

Kids are in anticipation of down time. In many of the areas where we work, the kids are so busy. Select sports, high-pressure academics, and extracurricular activities – the youth are so busy that they need the space to unplug and unwind. Intentional space for community over distractions allows them to be who they really are and connect. Scott Nelson, Principle, HH Architects in Dallas, TX.

With technology evolving it is hard to say. Of all the ministries in the church, I think youth ministers in particular need to be on the edge of things. We want to make sure there are no obstacles in the way of evolving ministries. The success of the space is really about leadership. A great youth pastor can make marginal facilities work. It is the people who connect. Dave Benham, Principle, LS3P Architects, Greenville, SC.

Read more about these trends and look at examples here.

Compelling Environments

At Auxano, we have discovered that there are three dominant environments that every local church is attempting to create:

  • Worship environments
  • Connecting environments
  • Serving environments

Each one plays a significant role in transmitting and realizing the vision. Many times, these “environments” are figurative, and we are asking questions like “How does your vision integrate into your worship?” or “How well is your DNA transmitted through your volunteer small group leaders?”

But there is also a literal consideration to environment.

Today and the rest of the week, I will be posting about these literal environments. I am attending and speaking at the 10th Worship Facilities Expo and Conference in Atlanta, GA. In these few days dozens of presentations and a whole expo floor full of vendors will give a great “snapshot” of what the trends are in the environments of churches today – and for the future.